Clyde Ave. neighbors care!

Let's help Steve replace his stolen car

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We make a living by what we get.
We make a life by what we give.

Winston Churchill

Steve Walker was in the wrong place at the wrong time...

June 4, 2009 - 12:45am

Hello fellow Clyde Ave. neighbors!

As most of you know Steve Walker, a Papa John's pizza delivery driver, was attacked and robbed in the courtyard of the 142-148 Clyde building on Tuesday, June 2nd around 7:45pm. The attackers also stole his car dragging him on the asphalt. Later on and thanks to the quick response from many of us, the police chased the suspects and they ended up crashing the car head on against a tree on Case and Ridge. The car was completely incinerated and is a total loss. Steve has multiple bone contusions (face, jaw, arm, femur, etc.) and a lot of road rash.

You can imagine Steve is not well off. His insurance only covers liability and now he has no car. The approximate value of his '03 Kia Optima is $2,000 and he doesn't have that kind of money. He lives alone in a Sect. 8 apartment in Carol Stream and has worked for Papa John's for the last 16 years. Unfortunately it seems the pizza chain will not help him replace his car and he needs one to make his living.

That is why I am asking for your help. I just spent the last four hours at the police station giving testimony and talking to Steve. I can say I got to know him and he is a good, honest guy. I believe people like him deserve to be helped in times of need. He works in our community and delivers pizza in our block all the time. Let's show him we care!

Now, I don't expect that we will come up with the full amount but we can come up with something! Any amount counts. What happened to Steve could have happened to any of us. Not only do we need to help Steve, we also need to make sure his attackers face the consequences of their actions.That is why I intend to follow the case.

Please email me to pledge your donation and check back for the final count and further developments. After that, you can send me a check made out to Steve Walker or use the Paypal donation button on the right.

Sincerely,

Omar Gutiérrez
ogaguse@gmail.com

Evanston, IL 

 

Tracy Williams, another resident of the Great 8th (our Evanston district) provided me with a photo of Steve's car after the crash. Our police officers apprehended the suspects a few minutes after the car jacking and our firefighters controlled the fire very quickly. They are the heroes in this story!

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The next day...

June 4, 2009 - 1:45pm

We have just surpassed the $600 mark, neighbors!
I was hoping to raise a few hundreds but at this pace we may be able to help Steve more. This is amazing!

I just spoke with him on the phone. He is resting and watching the White Socks play. He was wondering where to get a good, cheap car and quite worried about that. I mentioned that I wanted to raise money to help him out last night but I think he didn't realize I was serious. He brushed it off with a "you don't have to do that, man". When he heard the news he couldn't believe it! He is very thankful for all of you and said that some day we should get together for one of our neighborhood parties. He would like to spend some time with the people who are giving him a hand.

And speaking of giving a hand, thank you all so much for spreading the word! I have received messages and pledges from all over the place, including people who don't live in the neighborhood. I especially want to thank Michele Hays and Richard Foote:Michele has been doing a fantastic job spreading the word about this cause. She also has a friend who is moving out of the country and will need to sell a car. We may even have a car prospect for Steve! Richard just emailed me and mentioned that he has contacted Papa John's corporate office and asked them to match the amount of money we raise. That would be fantastic and it would make it very possible for $2,000 to be raised. I don't believe I have met you, Richard, but I know your name from our community message boards. Thank you!

I can't thank you enough and Steve can't thank you enough!

Please check back for further developments. I will keep you posted with progress on the case against the two attackers.

Let's keep showing Steve we care!

Omar Gutiérrez

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It is good to know so many of you care...

June 5, 2009 - 11:30am

We have raised $1,343! I never imagined we could do this so fast!

I just spoke to Steve who is getting ready to meet with a photographer from the Chicago Tribune. He and I got a call from a reporter who would like to write a story about what happened and the great neighborhood response. I will let you know if and when the story gets published. In the meantime, the fundraising efforts continue and Steve has been thinking of buying a used car from a car rental place. They usually have relatively low miles, are only a few years old and are offered at very good prices.

Other neighbors have continued their efforts to contact Papa John's asking for a match to whatever amount we are able to raise in order to help Steve replace his car. I will post more updates as they come.

Steve can't thank you enough! We would like to meet on Tuesday, June 9th at 7:30pm. This is roughly one week after the incident happened and we would like to meet all of you who have donated and helped spread the word. I hope to have all the donations in by then and be able to present him with the checks. We will meet in front of the Cameron Court Condominiums, where the incident took place. The address is 142-148 Clyde Ave. Judging from the overwhelming response, I think we will move to the park on the North corner of the block to meet and greet. This will be a great opportunity to meet your fellow neighbors and to get to meet Steve, who has told me he wants to meet all of you and thank you personally.

We hope to see you there!

Thanks!

Omar Gutiérrez

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Getting Papa John involved...

June 5, 2009 - 1:05pm

I just got an email from Richard Foote. He left a voicemail for a vicepresident of communications at Papa John's Pizza asking him about the possibility of the company matching the funds we raise to help Steve replace his car. He also mentioned that Papa John is on a road tour trying to find his 1972 Z28 Camaro. The very same car he sold in 1972 to start his pizza business. In return, he is offering $25,000 to whomever finds his ride. You can see all the details of the roadtrip and the car here: http://www.papasroadtrip.com/

The roadtrip seems like a very cool thing to do and his story is very compelling. I hope he finds his car and someone out there who needs the money earns the $25,000. I think that John Schnatter, Papa John's Pizza founder, could also give us a hand here. How about matching the funds we raise to help Steve replace his car, John?

I hope you are willing to help us. In the meantime, you can send John a tweet asking him to help Steve by going here: http://twitter.com/papajohns

Stay tuned and thanks for your help.

Omar Gutiérrez

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No word from the company...

June 7, 2009 - 1:40pm

Even though several people have contacted executives at the corporate offices of Papa John's Pizza, we have not heard from them. It is their choice to match our donations or not. They don't have to do it but it would be nice to at least get a response to our inquiry.

Either way, the donations keep growing and we are up to $1,704! Amazing work, neighbors!

During the time that I spent with Steve at the police station, I learned he is a huge hockey fan and played it in high school. Steve is relaxing at home today and just realized that the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Redwings are playing on Tuesday at 7pm. He was looking forward to watching the game but he will be here to meet all of you. I would like to record the game for him but I do not know how. If any of you know how to record it, please let me know. I would like to surprise him with a DVD of the game after we spend some time in the corner of the block. The game will be broadcast on Tuesday at 7:00pm on channel 5.

Keep spreading the word. There is still one day and ten hours to make your donation.

On behalf of Steve, thank you!

Omar Gutiérrez

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Wow!

June 7, 2009 - 11:55pm

I don't know how exactly it happened but Lisa Black, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, contacted us and wrote an article that will be published in tomorrow's edition. I just read it on the Tribune's website and am very pleased to know that Papa John's Pizza is considering making a donation to help Steve replace his car.

Thanks Lisa for a very well written article. I am looking forward to picking up the Trib tomorrow morning. Donations are picking up as I write this.

I make a point of replying to each email thanking everyone for their donations and updating the donation roster in a timely manner but I must go to bed now. I will be away from my computer most of the day tomorrow so the website will be updated at the end of the day. I look forward to meeting all of you on Tuesday when we will give Steve our donations.

I am truly amazed and proud of this community.

Omar Gutiérrez

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The aftermath of the Tribune cover...

 June 8, 2009 - 9:30am

Thanks everyone for your comments! I have received many emails and lots of people have commented on the Tribune story. I never imagined our efforts would be so successful.

Something I never imagined has just also happened: some low-life tried to hijack my Paypal account where I am taking donations for Steve. Fortunately Paypal is a very secure site and they notified me of potentially fraudulent activity. None of the donations have been compromised but I now have to follow several steps to be able to withdraw any money. That will only be possible in two or three days.

I will give Steve all the donations tomorrow but part of it will have to be a post-dated check because of the Paypal issue. The other part will be checks made out on his name that I have been receiving in the mail. Donations are pouring in today and I am quite overwhelmed so please forgive me if I don't update the roster in a timely manner.

I hope my efforts inspire others to help a person in need.

Omar Gutiérrez

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Chimichurri rice and beer...

June 8, 2009 - 2:35pm

I have just had the greatest lunch: chimichurri rice and beer. It was brought to me by Michele Hays, a neighbor I just met who is partly responsible for how big my effort has become. I have been glued to my computer and phone, giving interviews while eating, brushing my teeth, etc. and haven't had much time to eat.

As we speak we have surpassed the $7,000 mark! I have not updated the roster with all of the names but am updating the amount. Tomorrow when I have more time I will put all the names of the real heroes in this story: you, the donors!

I have been flooded with more than 500 emails of support and donation notifications. Donations are coming in from all over and even the folks at Paypal, who helped me make sure my account is completely secure, were excited about my efforts to help Steve and are following the website. Kudos to them for their professionalism and personable attention.

Univision will be coming to interview me in a few minutes so I must go now... more updates to come.

Knowing the total raised, Steve is thinking of buying a fairly new Ford Focus. I hope he is able to buy a brand new one.

Omar Gutiérrez

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The home stretch...

June 8, 2009 - 5:25pm

I have given a few interviews, answered many emails and tried to keep the donation roster updated. I am falling a bit behind and need to go pick my wife up from the airport soon. It has been a great day that started with a big smile from the man on the other side of the counter when he recognized my face from the paper. We need some peace and quiet when we come back so I won't be updating the donation roster until tomorrow. I will, however, remove the Paypal donation button at midnight as promised.

Sometime tomorrow I will go back over the messages that arrive every minute and tally up the results. I predict we will be over the $10,000 mark. I have also learned that Papa John's will be making the largest donation of all and I know Steve will be very happy.

A big thank you to Papa John's Pizza, the emergency responders for the city of Evanston who are the heroes on this story and to all of you who have written and donated to help Steve. Please do not be offended if I don't reply to your emails right away. I am quite overwhelmed.

Good night.

Omar Gutiérrez

 

UPDATE!!! - 7:00pm
My wife's flight is late so I am now just leaving to pick her up. We have just surpassed the $10,000 mark (without counting Papa John's donation) and I just told that to Steve. He is incredibly grateful and is thinking of a newer car with full comprehensive insurance. He will be able to afford it now for sure. Off to the airport!

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Never in our wildest dreams...

June 9, 2009 - 10:05am

Never in our wildest dreams did we think our efforts would be so successful. I have received emails from car dealership owners who are willing to give Steve any car on their lot at cost, thoughts on taxes, thoughts on health insurance, emails of support and more pledges. People have also been dropping donations at the police station and the chief of police, who will be present tonight, will bring those.

The total keeps climbing and I will keep updating the roster through the day. I thank you all for your overwhelming support. What started as an effort to raise money in the neighborhood has spread out immensely. It feels great to know so many people care!

See you tonight.

Omar Gutiérrez

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The total is in... pizza party tonight!

June 9, 2009 - 12:30pm

I just finished tallying up all of the PayPal donations and pledges I have received up to date. I am happy to say that we have raised a grand total of...

 $14,729.90

Thank you all for the immense response! I have received some of the most inspiring messages and kind words. I just spoke with Tish Moldoon, a Papa John's Pizza representative, and she told me Sid Ruckrrigel, president of the Chicago Coop, will be here tonight and will be bringing pizza and drinks for the gathering.

The real total is actually a moving target because I have been told there have been a number of people dropping checks by the police station. The Chief of Police will be present at our gathering tonight and will give Steve those checks as well.

I have also been contacted by Ross and Lilac of Direct Insurance in Chicago. They have been touched by the incredible effort the neighbors have shown and the effectiveness of the Evanston Police Department. As an insurance brokerage, they would like to provide Steve with full-coverage car insurance for the car he will buy and be part of the community that is helping him. My most sincere thanks to you two.

If you can walk to the event, please do so. The effort to help Steve has gained more popularity than I ever thought possible so we expect a lot of traffic.

See you tonight at the pizza party. Thanks everyone!

Omar Gutiérrez

UPDATE!!! - 2:15pm

I am getting more pledges right now and will be updating the roster until the last donation arrives. The total amount of the donations remains a growing one.

UPDATE!!! - 4:37pm

Representatives of Direct Insurance were in touch with Steve this afternoon and it appears they won't be able to offer him car insurance for his new vehicle as they intended. The reason why is unknown to me but I do commend them for their good intentions.

UPDATE!!! - 5:30pm

Sam DeLaGarza, a brand manager for the upcoming Ford Fiesta (I have driven the car, by the way... it rocks!) just sent me a tweet saying that Ford is willing to give Steve "friends and family" special pricing on a new car. Oh! and we just surpassed the $15,000 mark!

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From all of us for your shiny new car...

June 9, 2009 - 11:10pm

It was quite a great turnout for our pizza party tonight. Steven is glad the attention is over but did warm up to it during the gathering. I liked the smile in his face when I gave him an envelope full of donations. I was still filling it up as I was walking outside my building and people were waving at me saying "here... I have another one!". I am so proud to live in this caring, fun and diverse community.

Papa John's check was $1,000 larger than we expected and they brought 100 pizzas for the occassion. That was just one of many pleasant surprises tonight. I got to meet some of the neighbors who helped me in the background during this fund raising effort. This would have not been this successful without your help. Thank you!

Steve and I want to thank the real heroes of the story, our outstanding police officers and other emergency responders. I also want to thank my neighbors who offered all kinds of help during these days ranging from logistics for tonight's event, bringing me lunch, offering to bring me groceries (I was litterally glued to my computer for days but thought the offer was too much, therefore I declined) and other support.

After all the cameras stopped rolling and we said our good byes, some friends came over for wine and games. I thought I was ready for bed a while back (I have had very little sleep since Friday) but I had so much fun these days and my mind is not resting quite yet.

I wish the success of our efforts inspire people to take care of each other every day, not just in times of need.

Thank you.

Omar Gutiérrez

p.s. there are still checks coming in the mail so the total amount will be updated. Please stay tuned for the story on Steve's new car and the prosecution of his attackers. I do not intent to foster hatred against them, I just want the community to make a statement: these crimes affect more than one person. These crimes affect us all.

 

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Generosity and appreciation...

June 11, 2009 - 11:05am

The site was down for a few hours yesterday since it exceeded the allowed bandwidth for a free website. I upgraded my hosting arrangement and, voila! No banners on top and more than double the bandwidth!

After a day catching up with sleep and running personal errands (I haven't had much time for grocery shopping, housekeeping, laundry, etc. and my wife had been out of town for much of the fund-raising effort) I have to thank everyone who keeps sending checks for Steve. The total keeps rising and even though he has more than enough (and is, of course, thrilled) I will keep mailing him whatever donations I get.

My day yesterday was filled with much appreciation from total strangers who waved and shook my hand. I also got a few hugs and salutes from a police officer, a paramedic at the grocery store and, this is my favorite, a free massage by Carrie at TheraMassage in Wilmette. She wouldn't even let me tip!

It is great to know I was able to help Steve in such a way. Thanks to everyone who has followed the story, sent me cards, emails and notes. Please pay it forward...

Muchas gracias!

Omar Gutiérrez

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Message from Deb Rabine (Steve's sister)

June 11, 2009 - 7:58pm
 
Hi Omar,
 
Steve would like to post a thank you message on the web site but he does not use the computer so I am helping him. Rather than post it to a discussion group in the forum, I thought I would send Steve's message directly to you so you could put it on the main page. These are Steve's exact words:
 
Thank you to everybody who donated to help me get a new car. Thank you to all who helped in any way. You are in my heart and prayers. God bless you all. Sincerely, Steve Walker
 
Steve's parents, brothers and sisters are all astonished and so very grateful for the outpouring of concern and generosity shown to Steve following this horrific incident. We are thankful that he continues to heal physically and emotionally and, someday will be able to put this behind him. Once he gets his replacement car, it will be a daily remind of all who helped. Thanks so much for all that you have done.
 
Deb Rabine

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Dust off that old grill...

June 16, 2009 - 5:15pm

Steve is trying to find a reliable, fuel efficient car that will serve him well for years. He is working with Suzuki of Elmhurst on locating a pre-owned Toyota Prius in excellent condition. The folks in Elmhurst have offered to sell Steve any car on their lot at their cost with no extra fees, add-ons or profit at all. Michael Weiner, president of Suzuki of Elmhurst, was about to make a donation on June 8 and he realized he could do something better for Steve: get him a great deal. And what a deal! I commend Michael on his thoughtfulness. His help will allow Steve to get more car for his money and that is always a good thing.

And speaking of good things, we are organizing a block party for Clyde Avenue residents. Of course, all of you in the great 8th district are welcome to come (although nobody can come with empty hands) and Steve will join us. I will submit the permit for the block party tomorrow afternoon and will post the date and time here when the permit is granted. I am applying for the Fire Department and Police Department to join us for a fun afternoon. So dust off that old grill. We'll be using it soon.

Stay tuned.

Omar Gutiérrez

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We got the block party permit. Let's party!

July 1, 2009 - 10:45pm

The permit for the block party I submitted was approved. The party will be on

Sunday, July 12 - 1:00-6:00pm
 
I will need your help spreading the word and organizing a few things: we need to set up several grills throughout the block, assign who brings what kind of food and we need coolers with ice. Lots of ice! Email me at ogaguse@gmail.com and mention what you can bring and where in the block you will be.
 
EDOT (Evanston Division Of Transportation) will drop barricades that I will place in the following places for the duration of the party:
- 2 barricades at Brummel Street
- 1 barricade each at the two alleys north of Howard Street
- 1 barricade at Howard Street
 
My request to allow alcoholic beverages to be consumed at the party has been approved. Please remember that the sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited under current city ordinances.The Evanston Police Department and the Evanston Fire Department will visit us at the party. The EFD will hold a fire safety prevention event for the children and will have a fire engine on display.
 
This will surely be a great afternoon and a great chance to get to know your neighbors better. Steve will also be joining us.
 
See you then.

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Steve's shiny new car

July 14, 2009 - 8:00pm

Thanks to everyone who helped me organize the block party last Sunday and, of course, thanks everyone for coming out and sharing a few hours. We had a great time and some of us are now thinking this should be a yearly event. We played bocce ball, badminton, shared lots of good food and drinks. We realized we have a competitive grill master in our block (Angel Villaluz. Who knew?) so we could be the judges in a grill contest between he and his grilling buddies next year... just saying.

We were visited by the Evanston Fire Department so a big thank you is owed to them. They brought a fire engine and used their high pressure hose to entertain some very happy kids and a few grown-ups as well. Myself included.

Steve was also able to join us. He arrived driving his shiny new 2009 Kia Spectra and spent some time getting to know the neighbors. This was a great Sunday all around. I am proud to live here among such good, fun people.

Gary Brooks came out with his video camera as usual and is editing a video of the party. In the meantime, here are some pictures from the video that he shared with me. Enjoy and see you around!

 

 

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Giving back...

Steve is thankful for all of the help you have provided him in a time of need and I am happy I was able to provide a way for people to show him that they care. In his own words "you have no idea what all those people have done to my life. God bless them!".

The idea of setting up the website originated from a feeling of empathy when I spent a few hours with him at the police station. I feel strongly that empathy for others should be a bigger part of our lives and if more people reached out to help those in need this world would be a better place. Read the quote at the top of this page again. Those are wise words.

Give and volunteer for whatever cause resonates with you. If you need ideas, here are a few organizations that I believe do great work to help others:

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Fighting blood cancers - I belong to the society's Team In Training fund raising program and will be running the 2009 Chicago Marathon with them as well as raising funds that allow them to fund research and assist patients.

Center for Economic Progress
Financial education and advancement opportunities for low income families.

Howard Area Community Center
Providing tools to transform lives and create productive members of society in the Howard Ave. area of Chicago.

Humanitarian Service Project
Alleviating the pain and suffering that poverty brings to needy seniors and children in DuPage and Kane counties in Illinois.

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running, swimming and biking for a cure

Lisa Black, the reporter who has followed this story on the Chicago Tribune, wrote an article on December 27 about what my wife and I are doing to try to find a cure for blood cancers. This will be our third year raising funds on behalf of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. If you would like to help us find a cure you may visit:

Omar's fund raising website. I am running the Illinois Marathon on May 1st of 2010

or

Shanna's fund raising website. She is doing the St. Anthony's Triathlon in St. Petersburg, FL on April 25th of 2010.

 

Total donations to date

$16,724.90

Updated 06/09/2009

Paypal donations now closed. Thank you for your generosity! If you have not sent your pledged donation, please mail a check made out to Steve Walker to my address.

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